When I landed in the U.S. after a two week food excursion in France, the email at the top of my inbox grabbed my attention: “A little help needed for Market-to-Table tomorrow.” Jet lag couldn’t keep me away from this invitation and I answered with an enthusiastic yes.
Once a year, Edible Schoolyard New Orleans, a signature program of FirstLine Schools, loads up the 3rd grade students from Samuel J. Green Charter School onto buses and over to Crescent City Farmers’ Market. Hand in hand with their chef educators and New Orleans chefs who carve out time to assist with the annual event, the students skip through the market selecting good things from local farms. They will bring their haul back to the kitchen classroom and prepare lunch for their families.
The vendors at this open air market welcome the inquisitive shoppers and offer them tastes of their bounty. A sampling of thin-sliced cucumbers and sweet peppers prompted a discussion about how fresh and delicious the produce at the market is. “My mom always buys vegetables here!” a proud student announced.
A rough menu had been sketched featuring the best seafood and produce of the season and the teams selected local catfish filets, okra and sweet potatoes, green beans and pomegranates, tomatoes and squash, and satsumas. My team was led by Reed Eldridge, executive chef at Three Muses on Frenchman Street, who drew the dessert card. Chef Reed explained to the kids how he likes to feature seasonal fruits in his desserts and they carried heavy sacks of tangy satsumas back to the bus and into the kitchen. “Let’s make satsuma bars,” he said. My mind drifted to the satsuma tree in my new backyard, heavy with tangerine-looking citrus and I knew what I would get into the moment I got home.
A recess break for the junior chefs allowed time for the kitchen crew to set up the stations for an all hands on deck cooking party. The quiet shifted to lively chatter when the kids jumped in with scrubbed hands, ready to work.
Our group got busy blending cubes of butter into flour for the crust, cracking eggs, and zesting and juicing the satsumas for the filling. Chef Reed helped the small hands pat the dough into parchment-lined pans and while this buttery crust baked, they whisked the filling together.
Quiet resumed as the students headed out to the dining room to greet their families at tables set for lunch where they break bread together and celebrate the meal they all helped prepare. For me, it was a gift to take part in this annual event. Third graders chatting with farmers and chefs, shopping and chopping, juicing and stirring, then enjoying the delicious fruits of their labor. Their smiles are forever etched in my mind. Now I'm off to my own kitchen to share smiles and satsuma bars with my neighbors.
I am new to Louisiana, but no stranger to homegrown citrus. Pleasant surprise to have a flourishing satsuma tree in my backyard in Baton Rouge! I had to dive right in with a batch of satsuma bars in my kitchen. Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens ‘Blood Orange Bars’ -- if you don’t have a satsuma supply, try this with tangerines or the BHG version.
For the crust:
- 1 1/2cups unbleached flour
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cool unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into small cubes, plus a little for the baking pan
For the filling:
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon citrus zest (I chose orange-skinned satsumas and zested with a microplane)
- 1 cup fresh satsuma juice
- 3 tablespoons unbleached flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- powdered sugar for dusting
Heat the oven to 350. Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, extending the paper up the sides of the pan and lightly butter the paper.
Make the crust: Combine the 1 1/2 cups flour with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter cubes and work together with your hands until mixture is blended and crumbly. Transfer to the prepared baking pan and press evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes until light golden. Let cool on a rack a few minutes before filling.
Make the filling: Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk in the sugar, citrus zest and juice. Add the 3 tablespoons flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt, whisking until the flour is blended in. Pour the filling into the crust and bake until the filling is set, about 20 minutes.
Let cool completely on a rack before dusting with powdered sugar and cutting into squares. (Using the exposed edge of the parchment paper, slide the cooled bar onto a cutting board to make cutting easier. Chilling the bar before cutting also makes a neater cut. Cut into squares or rectangles as desired and serve. Keep remaining bars chilled in an airtight container).